The proposed West Byron housing estate will result in a 25 per cent increase in the population of Byron Bay-Suffolk Park and place massive burdens on already stretched roads, sewerage and schools as well as the Belongil estuary and Byron shire’s koala population.
So now is the time to lobby Don Page (local government minister, minister for the north coast and Ballina MP) if you want any changes to the proposed West Byron suburb before it is approved by the state planning minister Brad Hazard.
The Department of Planning and Infrastructure (DPI) is determined to rezone the 108-hectare site along Ewingsdale Road to residential (R2 and R3), industrial (IN2) and business (B1), with areas in the vicinity of Belongil Creek and on the periphery zoned for environmental protection (E2 and E3).
The DPI claims this will allow for up to 1,100 houses, though with minimum lot sizes of 150m2 there could be more than this.
No minimum lot size is proposed for commercial areas, though the plans allow for at least 70 industrial lots and 40 shops. You have until the end of January to comment on their plans for our town.
The land is to the south of Ewingsdale Road, from Inghams through to the bridge across Belongil Creek.
About half the land is owned by the Crighton Group, with the balance owned by Gousse Holdings Pty Ltd, Telicove Pty Ltd and Fletcher Project Developments Pty Ltd, along with a few smaller individual landholdings.
A number of the smaller landholders oppose the proposal.
The Crighton Group is an aged care and property development group made up of 15 companies (including Crighton Byron) that collapsed in April and now has administrators appointed to liquidate their assets.
The plans have been modified since they were first exhibited in late 2011.
DPI received 405 submissions, of which 245 supported the development.
As a result one proposed development area adjacent to the Belongil estuary has been removed, the commercial areas reduced by 10ha and the residential areas expanded by 5.5ha.
Residential lot sizes have been significantly reduced (with lot sizes reduced to 200m2 for most of Belongil Fields, and lots as small as 150m2 permitted) so as to allow an overall increase in the scale of the development.
Most objections, including many concerns raised by government agencies, were either ignored or dismissed.
The proposal is contrary to the 2007 Far North Coast Regional Strategy as Byron Bay already has more than enough land zoned for development to satisfy its growth targets until after 2031.
There is no need for a development of this scale. This development will stretch our infrastructure to breaking point.
Something like a 20 per cent increase in vehicles trying to get into town along Ewingsdale Road will turn traffic jams into a nightmare.
The capacity of the sewerage treatment plant will rapidly be exceeded. The primary school will soon be bursting at the seams.
This development along the main entry to town will diminish the small-town feel and atmosphere of Byron Bay which contributes to our tourism appeal, and when combined with increasing traffic jams will be detrimental to our tourism industry.
The development of a light industrial area in what should be a 300-metre setback from Inghams will quickly lead to conflicts and likely force the closure of Inghams and the 300 jobs it provides. Though there will be more jobs in the building industry.
Three-quarters of the site has acid sulfate soils which become toxic when drained.
The proposed drain will generate sulphuric acid and cause the mobilisation of toxic metals, and thus have dire consequences for the health of the Belongil estuary and its inhabitants.
Core koala habitat, an essential link through Sunrise between Tyagarah and Cumbebin koala groups, will be cleared, isolated and surrounded by development.
The vulnerable Masked Owl, Olongburra Frog and Wallum Froglet will also lose significant areas of habitat.
Development of a spur jutting into fire prone vegetation and of flood-prone land will create hazardous situations for many new residents.
In an era of rapidly rising sea levels it will not take long for the estuary to start rising, flooding low-lying areas, displacing fresh groundwater, and exacerbating flood events.
It is not a wise place to develop when other options are available.
It is evident that DPI is deaf to community and environmental concerns and have no intention of addressing key issues before they recommend that the minister for planning approve the development.
If you have concerns then you are best to let our government representative Don Page know ([email protected]) and ask him to ensure that rezoning is postponed until:
• an effective solution to traffic congestion on Ewingsdale Road is implemented
• the impacts of the proposed drain on acid sulfate soils and the Belongil estuary are fully assessed, and
• his promise of two years ago to require a Koala Plan of Management is honoured.
Exhibition documents are at http://majorprojects.planning.nsw.gov.au/index.pl?action=view_job&job_id=3547
* Dailan Pugh is a respected north-coast based conservationist and a founder of the Byron Environmental and Conservation Organisation (BEACON).